Levites as Policemen? (22 October, 2014, 28 Tishrei, 5775)
Levi was not to serve in the army with the rest of Israel.
This reflects the principle that they who are dedicated full-time to the service of the Almighty should be exempt from military service.
This is the claim made by the Ultra-Orthodox today in the State of Israel. To outsiders such notions often seem preposterous but from a sociological and psychological point of view there is something to them.
Paradoxically the Levites were also to serve in a Police type capacity.
In Modern Hebrew a policeman is a "shoter", plural "shotrim".
In Biblical Terms a "shoter" meant someone with both police and administrative capacities. In English Translations of the Bible the word "shoter" is sometimes rendered as "officer" or "official".
# Rabbi Chisda said: In the beginning policemen were only set up from Levi,
"and the Levites will serve you as officers [shotrim]" (2-Chronicles 19:11). # Talmud, Yebamot 86b.
The Shotenstein (Artscroll) Commentary points out that in the beginning the task of shotrim was carried out by indiviuals from all the tribes:
15 So I took the leaders of your tribes, wise and reputable individuals, and installed them as leaders over you, commanders of thousands, commanders of hundreds, commanders of fifties, commanders of tens, and officials [Hebrew: "shotrim"], throughout your tribes.
Later, according to Yabetz (Yaacov Emden?), the task of policeman may date from the time of separation between Judah and Israel.
When King Jeroboam separated himself from Judah and appointed fringe elements to replace the Levites, most of the Tribe of Levi left and went to Judah (1-Chronicles 11:14).
King Jehoshaphat of Judah reigned about 40 years after the Levites mnoved to Judah and he may have instituted the practice.
2- Chronciles 19:
8 Moreover, in Jerusalem Jehoshaphat appointed certain Levites and priests and heads of families of Israel, to give judgement for the Lord and to decide disputed cases. ...11...and the Levites will serve you as officers [Hebrew: shotrim i.e. policemen]. Deal courageously, and may the Lord be with the good!
Levites were also known for their musical talents and in the Temple Service had a choir and an orchestra of their own.
In the time of Joshiah we are told:
2- Chronciles 34:
12The people did the work faithfully. Over them were appointed the Levites Jahath and Obadiah, of the sons of Merari, along with Zechariah and Meshullam, of the sons of the Kohathites, to have oversight. Other Levites, all skilful with instruments of music, 13were over the burden-bearers and directed all who did work in every kind of service; and some of the Levites were scribes, and officials, and gatekeepers.
The Levite proclivity for police work may have been hinted at in the blessing of Jacob:
[Genesis 49:5] SIMEON AND LEVI ARE BRETHREN; INSTRUMENTS OF CRUELTY ARE IN THEIR HABITATIONS.
INSTRUMENTS OF CRUELTY in Hebrew "clei chamas" i.e. tools of violence.
We found many descendants of Simeon amongst the Irish. The Irish in the USA at one stage dominated the New York police force and that of other states.
Men of Irish descent have always been prominent in the US police, CIA, FBI, etc.
In the State of Israel today quite a few of the policemen seem to be called Levi.